CSCE 990: Robotics Today
Fall 2014


Dr. Carrick Detweiler
Computer Science and Engineering
220 Schorr Center
carrick _at_
Office Hours by scheduling a time yourself
and by email appointment.

Course Information

Mon, Weds, Fri 12:30-1:20pm in Avery 109

For detailed information on this course please see the course syllabus in html or pdf format.

Course Description

Robots play an increasingly important role in our lives, from assembling our cars and cell phones to vacuuming our rugs and flying recon missions. To create systems that work in the real world, the field of robotics requires robust theory and algorithms that are tightly integrated with hardware that is designed with engineering expertise. This course explores fundamental algorithms of robotics and how they are implemented and coupled with real world systems. The focus of the course will be on safety and sensing for robots operating in real world environments. Topics covered in this class include motion planning, state estimation, localization, vision-based navigation, manipulation, multi-robot systems, flying robots, sensors, and mechanical design. We will explore these topics through the critical analysis of classic and contemporary articles in the field of robotics. By examining algorithms and systems used in the real world, we will determine what it takes to go from theory to implementation. In this class, students will present, discuss, and write analyses of robotics research. In addition, a semester-long group project will allow students to further explore areas of interest in robotics. The goal of this course is for students to gain an understanding of the challenges and current state of the art in robotics and to improve critical analysis skills.


See the course syllabus and schedule below for readings and assignments. Unless otherwise noted, assignments are due at the start of class on the due date.

Reading/Assignment Due Date
Course Survey Tuesday, Aug 26th, 5pm

*Note html versions of assignments may lack some formatting or pictures found in the pdf version.

Course Schedule

Below is an approximate schedule of course topics and due dates. These are subject to change, assignments will be announced in class. Readings will be added as the semester progresses, so make sure to check back often.

Most articles are available from on campus by clicking on the links below. If this does not work (or you are off campus), try google or the UNL library website. If you are still unable to download the article, contact a classmate or me for a copy.
Week Readings Tentative Due Dates
Week 1, Aug 25th Monday: Course Intro
M. Dunbabin and L. Marques, "Robots for Environmental Monitoring: Significant Advancements and Applications," IEEE Robotics Automation Magazine, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 24-39, Mar. 2012.
K. Schmid, P. Lutz, T. Tomic, E. Mair, and H. Hirschmuller, "Autonomous Vision-based Micro Air Vehicle for Indoor and Outdoor Navigation," J. Field Robotics, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 537-570, Jul. 2014.
Course Survey Due Tues
Week 2, Sept 1st Monday (No CLASS Labor Day):
(More discussion of) K. Schmid, P. Lutz, T. Tomic, E. Mair, and H. Hirschmuller, "Autonomous Vision-based Micro Air Vehicle for Indoor and Outdoor Navigation," J. Field Robotics, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 537-570, Jul. 2014.
Friday: (Adam)
M. Purugganan and J. Hewitt. J. Laval, L. Fabresse, and N. Bouraqadi, "A methodology for testing mobile autonomous robots," in 2013 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2013, pp. 1842-1847.
Week 3, Sept 8th Monday:
How to Read a Scientific Article. Rice University, 2004. Online.
G. Welch and G. Bishop. "An Introduction to the Kalman Filter.," Available Online.
Friday: (Dave)
H. Durrant-Whyte and T. Bailey, "Simultaneous localization and mapping: part I," Robotics & Automation Magazine, IEEE, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 99-110, 2006.
Week 4, Sept 15th Monday and Wednesday NO CLASS, at IROS. Finalize groups for Friday. Read:
[1] L. U. Odhner, L. P. Jentoft, M. R. Claffee, N. Corson, Y. Tenzer, R. R. Ma, M. Buehler, R. Kohout, R. D. Howe, and A. M. Dollar, "A compliant, underactuated hand for robust manipulation," The International Journal of Robotics Research, vol. 33, no. 5, pp. 736-752, Apr. 2014.
[2] V. Zykov, E. Mytilinaios, M. Desnoyer, and H. Lipson, "Evolved and Designed Self-Reproducing Modular Robotics," Robotics, IEEE Transactions on, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 308-319, 2007.
Friday: Project groups due! Email me names before start of class.
Discuss [1] and [2], short meetings with groups.
Finalize Project Groups
Week 5, Sept 22th Monday:
[1] Schedule a 30 group meeting for today or tomorrow
[2] M. Rahimi, R. Pon, W. J. Kaiser, G. S. Sukhatme, D. Estrin, and M. Srivastava, "Adaptive sampling for environmental robotics," in 2004 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, vol. 4, pp. 3537-3544, 2004.
[1] R. A. Day, "How to write a scientific paper," ASM News, vol. 42, pp. 486-494, 1975.
[2] English Communication for Scientists: Writing Scientific Papers
Friday: (Najeeb)
M. Schwager, J. McLurkin, and D. Rus, "Distributed Coverage Control with Sensory Feedback for Networked Robots," Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, 2006.
Group Meetings
Week 6, Sept 29th Monday:
Discuss project ideas in groups (bring draft of proposal!).
Read: English Communication for Scientists: Oral Presentations
Watch in class and discuss: How to give talks Patrick Winston Video
Friday: Proposal Due! NO CLASS
Final Project Proposal Due
Week 7, Oct 6th Monday: (Mark and Jared)
N. Ayanian and V. Kumar, "Abstractions and controllers for groups of robots in environments with obstacles," in 2010 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010, pp. 3537-3542.
J. Mueller, G. S. Sukhatme, "Risk-aware Trajectory Generation with Application to Safe Quadrotor Landing," in IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS). 2014.
[1]R. Woodman, A. F. T. Winfield, C. Harper, and M. Fraser, "Building safer robots: Safety driven control," The International Journal of Robotics Research, vol. 31, no. 13, pp. 1603-1626, Nov. 2012.
Week 8, Oct 13th Monday: (James B. and Sai)
D. Gammell, S. Siddhartha, and T. Barfoot. "Informed RRT*: Optimal Sampling-Based Path Planning Focused Via Direct Sampling of an Admissible Ellipsoidal Heuristic," in IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS). 2014.
D. Nister, O. Naroditsky, and J. Bergen, "Visual odometry for ground vehicle applications," J. Field Robotics, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 3-20, Jan. 2006.
C. Urmson, J. Anhalt, D. Bagnell, C. Baker, R. Bittner, M. N. Clark, J. Dolan, D. Duggins, T. Galatali, C. Geyer, M. Gittleman, S. Harbaugh, M. Hebert, T. M. Howard, S. Kolski, A. Kelly, M. Likhachev, M. McNaughton, N. Miller, K. Peterson, B. Pilnick, R. Rajkumar, P. Rybski, B. Salesky, Y.-W. Seo, S. Singh, J. Snider, A. Stentz, W. "Red" Whittaker, Z. Wolkowicki, J. Ziglar, H. Bae, T. Brown, D. Demitrish, B. Litkouhi, J. Nickolaou, V. Sadekar, W. Zhang, J. Struble, M. Taylor, M. Darms, and D. Ferguson, "Autonomous driving in urban environments: Boss and the Urban Challenge," J. Field Robotics, vol. 25, no. 8, pp. 425-466, Aug. 2008.
Week 9, Oct 20th
Fall Break Mon-Tues
Monday (No Class):
C. McManus, P. Furgale, and T. D. Barfoot, "Towards lighting-invariant visual navigation: An appearance-based approach using scanning laser-rangefinders," Robotics and Autonomous Systems, vol. 61, no. 8, pp. 836-852, Aug. 2013.
Friday: (Walter and Aparna)
[1] S. Scherer, J. Rehder, S. Achar, H. Cover, A. Chambers, S. Nuske, and S. Singh, "River mapping from a flying robot: state estimation, river detection, and obstacle mapping," Auton Robot, vol. 33, no. 1-2, pp. 189-214, Aug. 2012.
[2] (Read section on field experiment) S. Jain, S. Nuske, A. Chambers, L. Yoder, H. Cover, L. Chamberlain, S. Scherer, and S. Singh, "Autonomous River Exploration," in Field and Service Robotics, L. Mejias, P. Corke, and J. Roberts, Eds. Springer International Publishing, 2015, pp. 93-106.
Week 10, Oct 27nd Monday: (Ross)
S. Seok, A. Wang, M. Y. Chuah, D. Otten, J. Lang, and S. Kim, "Design principles for highly efficient quadrupeds and implementation on the MIT Cheetah robot," in 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2013, pp. 3307-3312.
T. Whelan, M. Kaess, M. Fallon, H. Johannsson, J. Leonard, and J. McDonald, "Kintinuous: Spatially Extended KinectFusion," Jul. 2012.
Friday: Report Due Before Start of Class
[1] E. Guizzo and T. Deyle, "Robotics Trends for 2012 [The Future Is Robots]," IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 119-123, Mar. 2012.
[2] Final project status updates (5 minutes per group)
Final Project Status Reports
Week 11, Nov 3rd Monday: (Saeideh and Jim)
D. J. Abbott, C. Becke, R. I. Rothstein, and W. J. Peine, "Design of an endoluminal NOTES robotic system," in IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2007. IROS 2007, 2007, pp. 410-416.
S. R. Buss, "Introduction to inverse kinematics with jacobian transpose, pseudoinverse and damped least squares methods," University of California, San Diego, 2004.
Paul Hebert, et al. "Mobile Manipulation and Mobility as Manipulation - Design and Algorithms of RoboSimian," Accepted for Journal of Field Robotics (JFR), Special Issue on the DRC, 2014
Week 12, Nov 10th Monday: (Nathan and Hossein)
R. Deimel and O. Brock, "A Novel Type of Compliant, Underactuated Robotic Hand for Dexterous Grasping," in Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, Berkeley, USA, 2014.
Wednesday and Friday (No Class): Work on projects and reviews of:
[1] P. P. Neumann, S. Asadi, A. J. Lilienthal, M. Bartholmai, and J. H. Schiller, "Autonomous Gas-Sensitive Microdrone: Wind Vector Estimation and Gas Distribution Mapping," IEEE Robotics Automation Magazine, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 50-61, Mar. 2012.
[2] L. Natale and E. Torres-Jara, "A sensitive approach to grasping," in Proceedings of the sixth international workshop on epigenetic robotics, 2006, pp. 87-94.
Week 13, Nov 17th Monday: (Alfred and Lalitha)
G. Muscato, F. Bonaccorso, L. Cantelli, D. Longo, and C. D. Melita, "Volcanic Environments: Robots for Exploration and Measurement," IEEE Robotics Automation Magazine, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 40-49, Mar. 2012.
Wednesday and Friday (No Class): Project meetings
All Article Reviews Due (Monday)
Week 14, Nov 24
Thanksgiving Weds-Fri
Wednesday (No Class):
Friday (No Class):
Final Project Writeup Due (Monday)
Week 15, Dec 1st Monday:
Final Project Article Reviews Due (Weds) and Final Project Videos Due (Weds, ideally Mon)
Week 16, Dec 8th Monday:
Project Presentations (M,W,F) and Final Writeup Due (Fri)